South African denies injuring Asian doctor in alleged ‘one-punch’ incident

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept.
Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept.

A doctor was knocked unconscious in a one-punch attack after being allegedly subjected to racial abuse in Belfast city centre, a court heard today.

Jeevan Jayaprakash said he was injured by a blow inflicted when he challenged comments made during a night out last December.

Storm Lane, a 24-year-old South African, denies a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The accused, with an address at Florenceville Avenue in Belfast, insisted he had used no violence or offensive language.

Dr Jayaprakash said he was attacked outside the Merchant Hotel on December 12 as he and a group of friends went to get a taxi.

He claimed that as he walked past two men he heard one say: “I hate those Pakis, I’m sick of those Pakis.”

Recalling the incident at Belfast Magistrates’ Court today, he said he stopped and asked one with a South African accent they were referring to him.

“There weren’t other people of colour about,” Dr Jayaprakash said.

He told how he was then punched to the side of the face, knocking him to the ground and losing consciousness for a few seconds.

The strike caused bruising and swelling to his eyes and jaw.

Distict Judge Amanda Henderson heard he also had to undergo scans to ensure no brain injury.

Under cross-examination Dr Jayaprakash accepted he could not be certain who made the alleged comments.

But he insisted: “I heard the words so clearly. I have had racial abuse in the past, it’s something that pricks your ears up, it’s very hurtful.”

One of the friends with him on the night, an off-duty police officer, claimed that when the two men were challenged over the suspected remarks one replied: “What are you, a Paki or a Muslim?”

He told the court that he witnessed the punch and grabbed the attacker before letting him go so that he could check on Dr Jayaprakash.

Th court was told onlookers were asked to contact police but said they didn’t want to become involved.

Another friend claimed: “I can remember to this day the crack of the punch and Jeevan falling backwards like a tree falling, and I remember the thud of his head hitting the ground.”

Lane, a salesman, insisted he had never used racist language, didn’t even know what the term “Paki” meant, and has just returned from holidaying with an Indian friend.

According to his account of what happened that night in Belfast he was challenged and confronted as he shared an unrelated joke with his friend.

Lane said he put up his hands to apologise for any offence but stressed no remarks were directed at the victim.

At that stage, the defendant alleged, he was attacked himself by a man who choked him until he was close to passing out.

Eventually he was released when another man came over, it was claimed.

“He showed me his wallet, a police card and said ‘Don’t worry, I saw everything that happened, go home’,” Lane told the court.

Reserving judgment, Mrs Henderson said she had to decide whether the defendant inflicted the assault and, if so, whether it was aggravated by hostility.